If days like today are going to become a regular occurence for the Oakland Athletics, they might have to consider petitioning the league to allow them to carry more than 25 players on the active roster. For the first time since 1971, an American League team has played two games of 18 innings or more in the same season, fortunately for the Athletics they have emerged victorious both times.
Today’s marathon game at the O.co Coliseum was a vastly different affair than the 10-8 victory over the Angels on April 29th. With a final score of 3-2, this game proceeded much more swiftly than the previous game had.
The heroes in this victory are two rather unlikely players, the 6 foot 8 Nate Freiman, and literally the last man in the bullpen Jesse Chavez. Freiman sent the fans home happy with an RBI single with the bases loaded against Mariano Rivera, who had been honored before the game to commemorate his final appearance at the Coliseum. While Rivera surrendered the decisive blow, the loss goes on the record of Preston Claiborne who allowed a 1 out single to John Jaso to start the rally.
None of the 18th inning heroics would have been possible had it not been for the simply phenomenal relief pitching by Jesse Chavez. For 5.2 innings Chavez stifled the Yankees lineup, allowing just 1 hit and 2 walks (1 intentional), he also struck out 7. He retired the final 13 batters he faced after intentionally walking Robinson Cano after getting into a 3 ball count, he induced a pop up from Mark Teixeira to end that threat in the 14th inning.
I’ve been at the forefront of people who questioned why Jesse Chavez was still on the roster after his downright dreadful performance last year, but he’s been quite good in his role this season. The 5.2 innings lowered his ERA on the season to a very nice 1.83. The unfortunate reality of the situation is that Chavez may get sent down to Triple A to bring up a fresh arm, likely Evan Scribner. For once, I hope that doesn’t happen as he’s proven himself to be a useful part of this team and deserves to stay, provided Tommy Milone can help give the A’s bullpen a rest tomorrow.
Today’s starter Jarrod Parker pitch 8 excellent innings, he allowed a 1st inning 2-run home run to Robinson Cano, but didn’t surrender anything more to the Bombers. He allowed 5 hits and walked 2 with 2 strikeouts in his outing. In fact, that home run on the 3rd batter of the game was the only time the Yankees would score all afternoon, they were held scoreless for the next 17.2 innings by Parker and the entire A’s bullpen (except for Sean Doolittle who was unavailable). Jerry Blevins worked himself into a little trouble in the 11th inning with an error of his own, an intentional walk, and a hit batter, but he struck out Travis Hafner and Kevin Youkilis with the bases loaded to complete yet another one of his patented Houdini acts. Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook, and Pat Neshek each worked a scoreless inning during the game, Hideki Okajima worked 1/3 of an inning before being lifted for Chavez after getting into some trouble.
Seth Smith led the A’s with 3 hits in 8 at bats with an RBI double in the 3rd inning, John Jaso went 2 for 7 with a walk and Coco Crisp went 2 for 2 after pinch hitting for Chris Young. Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes were thought to be unavailable with the injuries they’d suffered on Tuesday, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Derek Norris went 0 for 7 with an RBI groundout in the 3rd inning and got into a bit of a shouting match with Robinson Cano over some suspected sign stealing. Josh Donaldson went o for 6 to drop his average down to .310 before leaving the game with a leg cramp. Donaldson’s departure got Nate Freiman into the game and sent Brandon Moss over to play 3rd base in an emergency situation, he never had a ball hit to him. Donaldson is day to day.
The hard fought win becomes a little more satisfying now that the Texas Rangers lost their series opener with the Blue Jays this evening (No they were not idle like I mistakenly said yesterday). This means the A’s now have a 2 game lead in the AL West. They have won 11 straight at home, and have won 21 of the last 26 games.
The Seattle Mariners come to Oakland tomorrow night as Tommy Milone (6-5, 3.69 ERA) takes on Joe Saunders (4-6, 5.12 ERA) in a game that Milone absolutely must work deep into. It’s almost a guarantee that the first man called from the bullpen will be Sean Doolittle since he did not work in today’s game. The A’s are rolling, and will hope to keep their momentum going through the weekend.